2015 has barely begun and, already, the stakes have been raised (we're not even a week into January) with Alejandro González Iñárritu's Birdman: an example of quality cinema at its finest. Let's talk about it.

I know what a lot of you are probably thinking and, no, this isn't a superhero film. When originally hearing about this and hearing the name, that's what I thought. The title Birdman can be misleading so let's just clear the air of that. What it is, though, is a dazzling film that is simply and utterly fabulous.

Had this released in 2014, this would have easily placed in my best of the year list. However, it has to be awkward and release in January. Well, already, I have a feeling that this will be one of the year's best films. Now, that's a big statement. 2015 looks like a glowing, fabulous year for cinema and it has only begun. This is the FIRST film of hundreds but, unfortunately, I just don't think that very many, if any, will match the unique viewing experience that Birdman gives. I hope I'm wrong but I don't see it happening.

Michael Keaton stars as our hero, washed up Hollywood star Riggan Thomson. Having once been famous, back in the 1990's, for portraying a superhero in the Birdman trilogy, this has some nice nods to reality - with the fact that Keaton once played Batman being a big influence. The setting is a Broadway theatre and we're a few days away from the debut of Thomson's stage adaption of Raymond Carver story's "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" in which he stars, directs and wrote.

With his whole life depending on the success of this stage play, things begin to fall apart around him. His lawyer-producer-friend Jake (Zach Galifianakis) starts to lose it. His girlfriend and co-star Laura (Andrea Riseborough) tells him that she's pregnant. His drug-addicted daughter Sam (Emma Stone) is also having issues of her own. His co-star is knocked out by a falling light and, to replace him, Thomson has to work with the difficult to work with Edward Norton (another little kid to the real world) as acclaimed theatre actor Mike. On top of all this, Lindsey Duncan's evil Times critic is determined that he and his play fail. Another nice touch considering that Duncan is actually such a renowned theatre actor.

Iñárritu's film is very grounded and it's just these little, simple touches he adds, like the nods to the real lives of our characters, that make Birdman so joyous. The point that he is trying to put across  is very crass but clear; cinema isn't what it used to be like and social networking isn't either. He has a nice point to say about what it means to be relevant these days and about all the big blockbusters we're seeing, instead of crisp, independent, quality films - like this one, for example. The way he dips into what it means to be famous is nicely done. This is a film that is abusing the industry. The irony, though, is that this shows just how incredible it can be and is an example of the industry at its finest.

Birdman is a triumph in its filming methods too. From start to finish, this runs so smoothly. Through some magnificent editing, sneaky cuts and the polished choreography of the cast, it feels almost as if this was shot in a single take. Were there any cuts? Well, of course there were but, through this illusion, it seems as though there weren't any and that this was filmed so flawlessly. This allows for a more frantic, chaotic tone and gives the film a sense of urgency. Combine this with a brilliant score, Antonio Sanchez's quick-paced drums breathing life into the proceedings, and you have a film that not only looks utterly incredible but that also absorbs you into the whole story, keeping you thoroughly engaged - making for a more unique, entertaining experience.

As for the acting, everyone is wonderful. This is a stellar lineup of such massive talent with each character having such diverse, rich personality and purpose. The performances are astonishing, each actor bringing something special to the film and being rewarded with their own memorable moments throughout the film. Our 3 leads all shine. There's Edward Norton as the estranged method actor, with his witty back and forth with Thomson. We have Emma Stone as Riggan's angry, fragile daughter; making clear how none of us are relevant and what we hold dear is of no meaning at all - we're nothing but a blip in the history of the world. They're both great, and so is everyone else. 

But, it's hard to deny the fact that this is Keaton's film. Completely inhabiting Riggan's skin, he balances every asset of the character perfectly. Haunted by his past, through a voice that sounds like a demented version of Christian Bale's Batman, we see the world through Thomson's eyes where he can levitate objects with his mind. We soon forget that he is but an actor acting. He does everything right, bringing us to an understanding of Riggan and of himself in just under two hours. The veritable chemistry and interactions between him and his fellow cast members also helps build on this. Keaton's pivotal, career-defining performance is at the core of this film. He knocks it out of the park. Welcome back to the prime time, sir. 

Witty and wonderful, Birdman is an impressive film that challenges 21st Century filmmaking and ideals - maybe a bit too much at times. With some glorious acting and even better directing, this is an exemplary cinema experience that is simply outstanding.
★☆

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About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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